Painted Grassroots

Reading the sports section of the Sunday New York Times, I was surprised to find a full-page ad attacking the Humane Society of the United States and its president, Wayne Pacelle.

The ad reported that HSUS was soft on quarterback/dog fighter Michael Vick, who has served a prison sentence and renounced the latter identity.   Sponsored by HumaneWatch.orgthe ad urged supporters of the Humane Society to withdraw their donations and support local shelters instead.

I often hear criticism of the Humane Society from Animal Rights activists, who say that HSUS focuses its efforts on moderate policies that have little effect on animals’ lives.  But where would more radical animal rights activists get the money for a full-page ad?  They didn’t.

HumaneWatch is out to discredit HSUS in any way, but it’s certainly not sympathetic to the animal rights cause.  Rather, it’s a project of the Center for Consumer Freedom, a group that describes its sponsorship as:

restaurants, food companies and thousands of individual consumers. From farm to fork, from urban to rural, our friends and supporters include businesses, their employees, and their customers.

Looking at the websites and reading the rhetoric, we can see an effort to look like grassroots activism, but this is clearly an example of well-heeled interests cloaking their efforts to make them look like something different.  They represent the interests of their business funders, rather explicitly, and resist government regulation of any kind.  As they explain:

A growing cabal of activists has meddled in Americans’ lives in recent years. They include self-anointed “food police,” health campaigners, trial lawyers, personal-finance do-gooders, animal-rights misanthropes, and meddling bureaucrats.

Their common denominator? They all claim to know “what’s best for you.” In reality, they’re eroding our basic freedoms—the freedom to buy what we want, eat what we want, drink what we want, and raise our children as we see fit. When they push ordinary Americans around, we’re here to push back.

So what’s the right description?  A chef (or chief?) in sheep’s clothing?

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About David S. Meyer

Author and professor of Sociology and Political Science at the University of California, Irvine
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One Response to Painted Grassroots

  1. Frances says:

    Great post on the fascinating point about those exploiting the uproar over the Vick redemption story for other political gains–

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